Feline Friday: Tom (Tom and Jerry)

Tom and Jerry looking weary in Old Rockin' Chair Tom

Feline Friday is my chance to celebrate famous cats across the arts, whether their origins are in gaming, film, anime, literature or anywhere else.

If you have a request for a future feline, please let me know on Twitter.

Thomas Jasper Cat, Sr.

First Appearance: Puss Gets the Boot (1940)

This character has always made me feel some type of way, and at long last, I have a platform to voice my opinion. Whether anyone will actually read it is another matter altogether, but we’ll cross that bridge later.

Since his debut as Jasper over eighty years ago, Tom’s life has been defined by his constant failure. Though the circumstances may vary here and there, the basic premise is that he is the resident house cat with a mission to exterminate pests.

By all rights, he should be a hero. A champion of domesticated life, whose dutiful efforts to please the whims of the ingrates he calls his masters is rewarded with love and affection. He works damned hard to earn his keep, rarely questioning his position in life. His plight is a mirror to our own, as we commute in the wee hours of the morning to maintain the status quo that is the daily grind.

Alas, Tom receives no adulation, and is frequently abused by his miserable overlords. Worse still, their cruelty pales in comparison to that of his wily target; a little mouse who goes by the name of Jerry.

Jasper stalks his prey in Puss Gets the Boot
Warner Bros. via ReelRundown

With a smug grin on his face and malice in his heart, Jerry relentlessly torments Tom, unleashing violence so fierce, it has been banished to select television channels. Children are traumatised by these feckless displays of barbarity, and yet Tom is the bad guy?

“But Anthony,” you reason in a diplomatic tone. “Often Tom is the aggressor in the beginning stages of the episode. Is he not merely reaping what he has sown?”

First off, how dare you get so familiar. Stop talking to your computer at once!

Secondly, you must appreciate that Jerry is an invader in Tom’s home, hellbent on stealing precious resources and torpedoing the property value. Imagine someone broke into your apartment, started drilling a hole in the wall to live in and then pinched a wheel of brie from your fridge.

Should you be villainised for being a less than accomodating host?

It’s a grim, grim existence, and if Tom & Jerry Kids is to be considered canon, it has proven a lifetime of suffering for our woebegone feline comrade. At one point, he is literally executed as punishment for his defeat.

This scene has caused generational distress for my family, having made my father weep as a child. I am not exaggerating when I say that I can only think of two times that my dad cried in his whole life, and this was one of them.

Admittedly, Tom can be a jerk sometimes, revelling in the few moments where he has the upper hand. For this, he is apparently irredeemable, even hellbound for his sins.

Such callous character assassination is surely cause for defamation, and it would not shock me in the slightest to learn that some sick rodent lobbyist is behind all this. My grasp of the legal system is not exactly what you’d call ‘qualified’ (nor my on/off career in neurosurgery), but I’d fathom Tom has quite a compensation package in store for him should he ever choose to pursue it.

For now, and likely forever, he is in pursuit of something else. A mouse, or multiple mice, or that annoying duck thing who serves as convincing evidence that there art no god in heaven. We may only stand by him, pick him up when he falls — frequent though those falls may be — and celebrate his rare victories.

Like that time someone edited Metal Slug sound effects onto an episode. That was a win for everybody.

One response to “Feline Friday: Tom (Tom and Jerry)”

  1. […] a villain, it’s in an archetypal sense where they end up looking like a bumbling fool. My man Tom Cat has been suffering through this cycle of indignation for more than eighty years […]

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